Saturday, May 30, 2009

Armenian and Moscow Visas.

I returned last night from a round of trips, firstly in Bulgaria last week and then on to Yerevan in Armenia via. Moscow. I would advise that the security check in Moscow is rather draconian and I had my bottles of water, shaving foam and shampoo confiscated, as they were all greater in volume that the 100 ml allowed, beyond which one might apparently be considered liable to perpetrate an act of terrorism. I suspect there may be a roaring trade going on in the resale of such contraband but it is all bloody annoying anyway. As a piece of further advice, I met a man on the plane back to London from Moscow with a rather salutary tale.

He had returned from Ukraine, intending to fly back from Moscow having made his connection, to London. However, because he needed to traverse the route from terminal 1 ("domestic") at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport to terminal 2 ("international" flights), he found himself in limbo, because he didn't have a visa to enter Russia. Even though he was only going from one part of the airport to another, this apparently counted as entering Russian territory, and eventually he had to give an airport official his credit card and passport so he could buy him an Aeroflot ticket back to London, whereupon he could be granted a visa and hence get to terminal 2. Russian bureaucracy seems about what I remember it from 20 years ago, in soviet times, but please do be warned that they take their regulations to the letter.

In contrast to when I visited Armenia some 8 years ago - having returned to London on the morning of 9/11 to in my experience unprecedented levels of security - and needed to go to the Armenian embassy in London to get my visa (and relinquish my passport for those days while the deed was being done), now you can just get an from the e.consulate of the government of Armenia. At Heathrow they didn't seem to know of the scheme, which caused some consternation on the journey out, but once I arrived in Yerevan, they were well aware of this more recent innovation in allowing access to their wonderful country, and I would recommend anyone going there to avail themselves of its facility (link below). It costs $60. By the way, you also have to pay an exit-tax to get out of Armenia which you do at the Converse bank in Yerevan airport. That is about another $30.

20 years ago, Aeroflot was not the greatest of airlines mainly in that it used old aircraft, but now it is really a very decent airline, and cheap too in relation to British Airways for example and so I would certainly fly with them again, although here is a lot of bad-mouthing of Aeroflot on the internet. I can only speak from my good recent experience of friendly staff who can speak some English, that they use modern Airbus 320's, and flying with mainly Russians who are in general also in my experience a nice lot, as they were at a conference I attended on satellite technologies and gave the keynote lecture in Yerevan.

More about this kind of subject later, including Quantum Dots, but just to say that "I'm back", at least for a while until I go to the States later in the year, to give some lectures on the subject of "energy" and its relations.


Mark said...

Quick question about Armenia's exit tax. If a person was robbed before he got to the airport and had no money, will he be stuck their like Tom Hanks was in the movie Terminal?

energybalance said...

Hi mark!

Good point, Armenians are kind and hospitable people, and so I think if you explained the situation they would relinquish the fee!

Anyway, I keep $100 on me just in case. Actually it's funny that an American colleague couldn't get the hotel and other places to take dollars (i.e. I exchange pounds for dollars) but I have no problem at all, having used it as a standard currency during and since soviet times (hard currency is hard currency after all!). They give you the change in Drams but that's fine of course since you are in Armenia and can spend it there.

The real problem cf. Tom hanks is that you really could end up stuck at Moscow airport with their strict adherence to rules!

Anyway, it's just a warning from my own experience.



Vartkes said...

Dear Chris,

Thank you for these information about Armenian e-visa, by the way i'm Armenian but born and living outside of Armenia and every time i visit Armenia i had to go to the embassy to get the visa, but now i believe it's more easier for me to get it online.
And i encourage every one to visit the wondeful Armenia.

Kind Regards.


energybalance said...

Dear Vartkes,

as I say, it's much easier to get a visa for Armenia now and it is well to be aware of the exit tax which is only the small sum I mention.

I always encourage people to go to Armenia. It is a wonderful country in all respects - the people, the scenery, and of course the spiritual mountain, Ararat!

Once there it is also cheap for a westerner.